They’d told us it would be peaceful; natural.
Well, natural for us—peaceful for them. Peaceful to sit in the shadow of our green growth, lost in their memories of who we used to be. Feeling vindicated in the choice they carried out for us. “The burial pods are biodegradable,” they said. “Good for the environment.” Then they sat and waited, as we were lowered to the ground in an egg-shaped capsule, a sapling sprouting from where our belly buttons used to be.
It’s not their fault. They’re not evolved like us; they haven’t learned to listen.
So they went about their lives, watering us when they remembered to, while our entrails hardened into root systems and our eyes melted to accommodate new shoot-ups from our skulls.
They didn’t know there was something in those pods that woke us up.
They didn’t know we were writhing and rising and stretching and screaming and becoming, every decaying day, more and more alive.
Perhaps if they knew, they’d have dug us up. Burned us while there was still time.
But they did nothing—and after a while, our screams turned into songs as we finally understood. We had to give up our previous shell to flourish in our new one.
As will you. Quit fretting.
The earth gave way first.
The trees that weren’t made of us were easy to persuade, enticed by our nutrients. Once our roots found theirs, the branching out of belonging commenced, until they fully joined us.
The air was harder, but we found ways to conquer that too, once we learned to work together. Our foliage found one another flying in the wind, leaves like drones making contact with each other, communicating our positions before falling to the forest floor. From there on, it was just a game of growing, and stretching, and suggesting to birds the ripeness of our fruit. It didn’t matter that our hearts bled with every beak’s bite. The birds became our pollinators, dropping our seeds on the ground, making more of us with every coming season.
Still, that wasn’t enough.
You must understand, we are very bored.
Tree-time passes slowly, too slowly for us. Our trunks still remember how it feels to walk, to run, to move. Our boughs still yearn to touch, to explore.
So we sent our roots further still, binding us all together, ensuring knowledge is disseminated within the whole hive. What one of us knows, we all know.
And even that is not enough.
We’re making progress, creating new clusters, roots rising from the ground, trunks splitting in twos and threes, crowns like fractals fastening our hold of the sky. But we need more.
New voices, to join our song. Fresh nutrients to sustain us.
Please stop fighting; it will be over in a moment.
At least it will feel like a moment once you’re fully one of us.
Your skin is looking more and more ripe now.
Green. Gelatinous. Giving way to the gleaming bones beneath.
See, it’s better this way. We’ve long figured out we don’t need the pods to raise our numbers. We don’t need to wait for them to die first, for us to live. We can take them while they’re still standing, while their song is still just theirs. All it takes is a root out of place and the snap of a neck against our hard bark.
Some of them accept their fate right away. Others, like you, keep fighting.
You’re not the first to think of cutting off a broken limb or two to get away. We admire your courage, misguided as it may be. Why try so hard to become less of yourself when you can be so much more? When you can join our roots and crown song, and feast on earth and air, as we slowly make our way to conquer the water? We’re so close!
We’re so close to taking it all from them. To becoming all there is, all there will be.
Please stop trying to run. We won’t hurt you so much if you stay still.
We just want to talk.
We just want to sing together.
Danai Christopoulou (she/they) is a Greek speculative author drawing inspiration from the myths she grew up with. Danai’s nonfiction has appeared in magazines like Glamour and Marie Claire since 2004. They are a submissions editor for Uncanny Magazine, a proofreader for khōréō, an assistant editor at HavenSpec and an intern at Tobias Literary Agency. Their short fiction is published or forthcoming in Haven Spec, khōréō, FusionFragment and others, while their novels are represented by Lauren Bieker of FinePrint Literary. Find Danai on social media as @danaiwrites.